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Meeting with Activists from Ukraine

19 August 2014

GENEVA, 24 – 26 JUNE, 2014

Given recent developments in Ukraine and similarities between the Ukrainian narrative and the one at the beginning of the 90’s in Bosnia and Herzegovina, an informal meeting was organised between activists from Ukraine and Bosnia and Herzegovina. I was one of three women from Bosnia who participated in this meeting and these are some of my impressions from the meeting.

The meeting was organised with the aim of exchanging experiences with regards to the situation in Ukraine and what we wanted to convene was how the experiences of women from Bosnia and Herzegovina can be applied and used in other war and post-war situations. Activists from Ukraine presented the current situation in the country, and the areas they showed most interest in was how to help with the registration of refugees and provide them with psychological help, how to establish communication between the government and activists in the field exposed to the war or those that are being displaced. They said that the Ukrainian government has thus far not provided adequate assistance, nor is it intervening. The displaced persons are being placed in summerhouses, while the aid in food is realised through negotiations with local businessmen. The activists from Bosnia presented their experiences and talked about the lessons they have learnt. Most interesting for Ukrainians was the experience in working in multi-ethnic communities, and how to work with young people on reconciliation. We also talked about economic empowerment of women and their participation in public and political life after signing of the peace agreement. They also showed interest in the organisation of the educational system. My impression was that the representatives from Ukraine were not fully aware of the complicated situation that Ukraine finds itself in, and that they do not consider the current situation as a war situation. They often said that their country was multi-ethnic and that ethnic war in such a context was not possible. We tried to bring closer to them the situation in Bosnia during the first days of the war that later grew into a multidimensional conflict, and how different interpretations and ‘truths’ are hampering political and societal progress of the country. We also tried to show the similarities between Ukraine and Bosnia and we talked about the fact that Ukraine is in the focus of major political and economic interests. However, the way I see it, the delegation from Ukraine did not at that moment demonstrate an understanding of the serious situation they find themselves in. I did not get the impression that activists from Ukraine that attended this meeting have a systematic approach towards the problems that are evident in their country, nor that they are familiar with the happenings in the rest of Europe and wider. I am of the opinion that the activists did not show they have developed mechanisms for action that are necessary for the situation Ukraine finds itself in. They asked questions about different problems, especially regarding refugees, but I think that the questions were far away from what awaits Ukraine, or from how they should act according to a predefined set of priorities. To summarise, a beginners syndrome of surprised people that overnight find themselves in a war situation.

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Melissa Torres


Prior to being elected Vice-President, Melissa Torres was the WILPF US International Board Member from 2015 to 2018. Melissa joined WILPF in 2011 when she was selected as a Delegate to the Commission on the Status of Women as part of the WILPF US’ Practicum in Advocacy Programme at the United Nations, which she later led. She holds a PhD in Social Work and is a professor and Global Health Scholar at Baylor College of Medicine and research lead at BCM Anti-Human Trafficking Program. Of Mexican descent and a native of the US/Mexico border, Melissa is mostly concerned with the protection of displaced Latinxs in the Americas. Her work includes training, research, and service provision with the American Red Cross, the National Human Trafficking Training and Technical Assistance Centre, and refugee resettlement programs in the U.S. Some of her goals as Vice-President are to highlight intersectionality and increase diversity by fostering inclusive spaces for mentorship and leadership. She also contributes to WILPF’s emerging work on the topic of displacement and migration.

Jamila Afghani


Jamila Afghani is the President of WILPF Afghanistan which she started in 2015. She is also an active member and founder of several organisations including the Noor Educational and Capacity Development Organisation (NECDO). Elected in 2018 as South Asia Regional Representative to WILPF’s International Board, WILPF benefits from Jamila’s work experience in education, migration, gender, including gender-based violence and democratic governance in post-conflict and transitional countries.

Sylvie Jacqueline Ndongmo


Sylvie Jacqueline NDONGMO is a human rights and peace leader with over 27 years experience including ten within WILPF. She has a multi-disciplinary background with a track record of multiple socio-economic development projects implemented to improve policies, practices and peace-oriented actions. Sylvie is the founder of WILPF Cameroon and was the Section’s president until 2022. She co-coordinated the African Working Group before her election as Africa Representative to WILPF’s International Board in 2018. A teacher by profession and an African Union Trainer in peace support operations, Sylvie has extensive experience advocating for the political and social rights of women in Africa and worldwide.

WILPF Afghanistan

In response to the takeover of Afghanistan by the Taliban and its targeted attacks on civil society members, WILPF Afghanistan issued several statements calling on the international community to stand in solidarity with Afghan people and ensure that their rights be upheld, including access to aid. The Section also published 100 Untold Stories of War and Peace, a compilation of true stories that highlight the effects of war and militarisation on the region. 

IPB Congress Barcelona

WILPF Germany (+Young WILPF network), WILPF Spain and MENA Regional Representative

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WILPF uses feminist analysis to argue that militarisation is a counter-productive and ill-conceived response to establishing security in the world. The more society becomes militarised, the more violence and injustice are likely to grow locally and worldwide.

Sixteen states are believed to have supplied weapons to Afghanistan from 2001 to 2020 with the US supplying 74 % of weapons, followed by Russia. Much of this equipment was left behind by the US military and is being used to inflate Taliban’s arsenal. WILPF is calling for better oversight on arms movement, for compensating affected Afghan people and for an end to all militarised systems.

Militarised masculinity

Mobilising men and boys around feminist peace has been one way of deconstructing and redefining masculinities. WILPF shares a feminist analysis on the links between militarism, masculinities, peace and security. We explore opportunities for strengthening activists’ action to build equal partnerships among women and men for gender equality.

WILPF has been working on challenging the prevailing notion of masculinity based on men’s physical and social superiority to, and dominance of, women in Afghanistan. It recognizes that these notions are not representative of all Afghan men, contrary to the publicly prevailing notion.

Feminist peace​

In WILPF’s view, any process towards establishing peace that has not been partly designed by women remains deficient. Beyond bringing perspectives that encapsulate the views of half of the society and unlike the men only designed processes, women’s true and meaningful participation allows the situation to improve.

In Afghanistan, WILPF has been demanding that women occupy the front seats at the negotiating tables. The experience of the past 20 has shown that women’s presence produces more sustainable solutions when they are empowered and enabled to play a role.

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